Polish MPs clash over planned barrier on border with Belarus

On Tuesday, the government fast-tracked the draft law, put forward by the interior ministry, on building a high and solid barrier on the border with Belarus in a bid to protect Poland’s and the EU’s external frontier from the illegal migrants.

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Poland has been struggling to stem the flow of Middle Eastern and African migrants coming from Belarus. The government says they have been invited to that country by Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the Belarusian president, allegedly under the promise they will be able to live in the EU.

The wall, which the government estimates will cost over PLN 1.6 bn (EUR 350 mln), is to protect the border from being illegally crossed by the migrants.

During a parliamentary debate on Wednesday about the bill, Maciej Wąsik, deputy Interior Minister, said that the temporary protective measures now in place “would be absolutely sufficient if we did not have a foe on the other side which supports the migration efforts.”

He added that Poland wants to have the wall built “as soon as possible.”

“The construction will start once the regulations on the matter have come into effect,” he said.

“In August, Poland began building a barbed wire fence along its border with Belarus but the wall, which would come with a system of motion sensors and monitoring system, is to further enhance border security,” Mariusz Kamiński, Interior Minister, said on Tuesday.

Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska, an MP from Civic Platform (PO), Poland’s main opposition party, questioned the merits of building a wall saying that “There is no doubt that PLN 1,6 bn will be spent, but it will not have any spectacular effects.”

She added that the experience from other countries shows that this kind of protection is “not perfect.”

Andrzej Rozenek, an MP from the Left, asked Mr Wąsik how the wall’s costs had been calculated, and how the contractor would be selected.

In reply Mr Wąsik told MPs that the estimates envisage the maximum level of expenses and the contractor will be selected “in a transparent manner” albeit not through public procurement due to the short deadline.

Donald Tusk, PO leader, a former prime minister and ex-head of the European Council, told reporters after the parliamentary debate that his party will vote against the bill.

“This wall will not be built in a year or in three years, because building a good and effective barrier is not the [government’s] intention. Their intention is to make emotional spectacles and spend nearly PLN 2 bn without any control,” he said.

He added that the PO expects “real action” from all security services and from the government to seal the borders, and that he will not support such “ambiguous undertakings and ideas.”

Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have accused the Belarusian government of pushing migrants across the border in an effort to destabilise the EU in retaliation for sanctions that Brussels has imposed on Minsk.

Areas in Poland close to the border with Belarus have been under a state of emergency since September 2. The press is barred from visiting the area covered by it.

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